Cara Winters is the kind of athlete that is made for Colorado. From her home base in Denver, Winters, 32, is equally at home in the city as she is in the mountains. The ability to balance an urban life with the adventurous and unpredictable elements of the Rocky Mountains is a talent she has sewn together with a common thread: her love of running.
Winters was a three-sport athlete in high school and when she progressed to college, she consolidated her athletic prowess into a commitment to running. As she left behind organized sports, running was the one activity that continued to drive her -- both as a means for fitness and an escape to more introspective thoughts.
“Running means time to my myself to be alone with my thoughts - it's my sanity in this crazy world!,” says Winters. “ I love the long-term challenge of training for a race and aiming to best my personal records. Mentally and emotionally, in terms of day-by-day importance, it's the best kick-off to my day, to begin with a run and spend a little "zen" time with myself.”
While Winters has competed in her share of organized events and road races, in recent years running has taken her off-road and into the mountains. One of her recent highpoints -- literally and figuratively -- was the Imogene Pass Run. This Colorado classic run covers 17.1 miles from Ouray to Telluride by way of Imogene Pass. Along the way is over 5,000 vertical feet of elevation gain (nearly all gained in the first 10 miles) and a top elevation of 13,114 ft. at the summit of the pass.
Winters did exceptionally well in her debut performance, coming in 46th out of over 600 female competitors with a time of 3:30. Next year, she has her eye on running a 30 mile course in British Columbia that will challenge different aspects of her endurance but maintain the mountain settings she has grown to love.
When asked to name one of her favorite mountain running destinations, Winters mentioned Crested Butte, one of Colorado’s most scenic areas located in the heart of the Elk Range peaks.
“A new favorite in terms of running event is Crested Butte's Camp 4 Coffee Cart to Cart trail run, which just took place last weekend amidst the changing Aspens,” says Winters. “This is my favorite time of year to run -- autumn conditions with crisp, clear 50 - 60 degree days.”
While organized events loom on the horizon, it is on here on Denver’s homefront where Winters recieves her daily dose of running mojo. “I have participated in the Irish Snug Run Club on Colfax in the past, but these days I typically train with close friends who live in my neighborhood. I draw a great deal of inspiration from my circle of running friends.”
Running is as much a meditation for the mind as it is for the body for Winters. Besides the sheer joy and reflective nature of the sport, she aims to continue to combine travel with running. She recently ran the Golden Leaf Half Marathon in Aspen, Colorado and hopes to one day compete in an event in South America’s magical Patagonia region.
“Running is important for my physical, mental and emotional happiness,” says Winters. “A good mix of group runs and solo outings helps achieve that balance.”
As her running progresses, Winters will continue to seek out the beauty of remote trails while recognizing the charm of the local routes in the heart of a busy city. As many runners know, the places our legs carry us isn't always the simple ground we tread but the freedom to explore new places in our hearts and souls. Winters uses running as a way to connect to it all.